You’re standing in front of a row of CDs but you can’t for the life of you remember which was the one your mum was looking forward to. You give up and go check out some jewellery but can’t find anything that’s ‘her’.
We all know how frustrating it can be, trying to find the perfect present for that special someone in your life, a family member, a friend or a colleague. Buying them CDs and DVDs year after year can get repetitive and downright boring, so why not shake it up a little?
Enter Oxfam Unwrapped, a fascinating initiative from the global charity.
Wide a wide selection of unique gifts ranging from school supplies to a goat; from buying a toilet to packets of seeds for a farming community, Oxfam have made sure that the gifts you choose will be useful to all, and memorable.
Their gifts are split into categories – bookworms, DIYers, animal lovers etc.
The explanatory video shows the simple 3-step-process:
1. You choose a gift from one of the several categories. Gifts sell for as little as £6.
2. Pick out an appropriate card and message for your friend, family member or colleague.
3. The gift is sent out to the community. Oxfam guarantees that the gift goes where it’s needed most.
Here’s the interesting part – there is no real guarantee that the gift will go to the community you want it to. This decision is left up to Oxfam’s discretion and they assure customers that they’re allocated to the places where they will do most good.
A second video, ‘How We Spend Your Money’, sheds some more light on this process.
Each project is reviewed annually, analysed to see what changes need to be made to them; evaluate how they can better serve the community; and from all that, a list is drawn up of new and revised projects.
There are two routes to choose between when you buy a project for a friend – general funds and funding category.
When you choose the former, you are giving Oxfam the permission to use your funds in areas of the world that they feel would best serve the community, pick the specific project that would serve them, and where the project would be most helpful. For example, if you bought medical supplies for a village and ticked the ‘general funds’ category, Oxfam would allocate that to a specific village in a country they thought was most in need of it.
For more choice about where your project will be implemented, there is the ‘funding category’ option. In this case, the money goes into a general pot for that category – eg education – and is spent on that specific project, once again in an area of the world that Oxfam’s experts determine to be the most in need of it. If you bought the ‘Train a Teacher’ project for example, that money would go into the ‘education’ category and would go to an education project in that community.
Oxfam assure us that the projects will be allocated perfectly according to needs of a village or town; they have over 60 years of experience in such work, after all.
They want to make sure that the needs of the community are perfectly matched to the gifts that have been bought, so the gift that you order may not be exactly what goes to the village; they insist though, that it will be as close to it as they can manage.
Once the gift has been received – usually within three working days of ordering it – it is reported back to you with details of its use and its projected contributions to the community.
At the end of the year, they are all assessed once again and a new list is drawn up – so projects may change from one year to the other, maybe because there is no longer a need for them in the community (see picture).
£6 can buy a village 80 bars of soap.
£8 can buy school books.
£7 can buy a school its supplies. Stationery, books, uniforms and classroom equipment – “everything a youngster needs to make the most of the school day.”
‘Unwrapped’ is a scheme adopted across the world – in the UK, US, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Ireland, New Zealand, Netherlands, Quebec, Belgium and Japan. In Oxfam Austrailia, $1,650 buys a community the training and equipment to build rice banks. Here is a testimonial of the project and its use in the community:
In Laos, Oxfam assists communities to build rice banks, reducing the need to take out high-interest loans during periods of food shortage. Rice banks are built in a central community area and given a base stock of rice. Families deposit a percentage of their rice into the rice bank which the whole community can then draw on when needed.
In addition, they reduce the work of women who would otherwise have the labour-intensive task of searching for food during periods of shortage.
In Laos, Oxfam Australia assists communities to build rice banks, reducing the need to take out high-interest loans during periods of food shortage. Rice banks are built in a central community area and given a base stock of rice. Families deposit a percentage of their own rice into the rice bank, which the entire community can then draw on when needed. Having access to a rice bank also reduces the work of women who would otherwise have the labour-intensive task of searching for food during periods of rice shortage.
“I have one hectare of land on which I grow rice. Last year I harvested 30 baskets of rice (equal to about 600kg). This lasts my family three months. To help feed my family, I have to borrow rice from the rice bank. Last year, I borrowed 400kg of rice and will have to pay back 480kg. Oxfam Australia has helped my family get more rice and also take care of our health.” Mr Aum Chang, Sarborng village, Laos
With gifts such as these – many of them are sustainable and can be used for several years; others are investments made into the community and will be invaluable – Oxfam has given us as customers the perfect alternative to repetitive and predictable gift ideas. Most importantly, they have given the communities we care about real gifts that they can cherish for years to come – and have given us peace of mind, knowing that we have been of service to others.
For more information, request a catalogue at your local Oxfam shop or from their website – http://www.oxfam.org.uk/shop/oxfam-unwrapped